Sunday, February 14, 2010

Steinheim Castle

The Steinheim castle, which is currently the Career Development Center, is a unique structure on Alfredís campus. It holds a lot of history and went through a lot of changes since its construction. This unique building was started in 1875, originally built as a home for a professor. Professor Kenyon was from Germany so the architecture was based on German castles. It is made of rock and wood that were all found within Alfred. There are an estimated 8,000 different kinds of rock used within the building as well as 800 different types of wood. While Kenyon was in the process of creating the building, they ran out of money. It was then purchased by Jonathan Allen, the president of Alfred University at the time, and completed.
Since the building is based on European architecture, it sees as though it doesnít fit in the Alfredís landscape. However by German castle standards it is rather typical. Although much smaller and less ornate, they have similar characteristics. The Steinheim has many long and slender windows, which one can only assume were derived from the need to sight an approaching enemy. The doors and windows are rounded at the top rather than the squared as we are used to. It also has the rounded, column like structures that make up the body of the castle. The top of the building has ornamental structures similar to the tops of turrets on other castles. These decorative additions once helpful for protecting the castle but now have simply becoming adornment. Aside from the actual physical structure of the building it was built by laying the stone work by hand. The look of the castle is very similar to what we think of as a ìtypicalî castle. It is a very sturdy and strong structure, which again is very characteristic of a castle that would be under a possibility of attack.
This was a functional structure first being built with the intentions of being a home then converted to a museum, used as a classroom, radio station, and finally the career development center. Being in Alfred, NY it does not seem to be under any danger of being attacked so the architectural choices were all purely aesthetic. The functionality of the castle as a castle is unnecessary. Originally it was built as a monument for a different culture as an identity preserving device. It was never meant to be used for defensive purposes. This was a one of a kind building, so there was not a period of standardization that took place. It didnít have the chance for changes and improvements to take place. However in the 1990ís there was a major renovation that took place. These updates were for the interior of the building rather than the outside so the majority of the structure remained the same. Although it was never actually used as a home the cultural statement was still made. As the architecture of Alfred has developed and changed according to cultural standards, the Steinheim has morphed into a historical memorial. It is very different than the brick that makes up most of the buildings on campus however, the castle adds a certain historical charm to Alfred.

1 comment:

  1. When the Steinheim was owned by President Johnathan Allen, he and his wife studied the natural sciences and were collect many different specimens that were then displayed within the showcases inside the castle. Many of the specimens included mounted birds, shells, corals, fossils, rocks, minerals, and colonial implements. In an interview with Mark McFadden he informed me of a story where President Allen wanted a skeleton for his collection, so he went to the local prison in Alfred. Once there he selected a girl, who was there for life and bought her skeleton for $200. Once she passed away her skeleton was moved to the Steinheim where it lived for many years. Another interesting story Mark told me was about the Steinheim ghosts. When Johnathan and his wife Abigail passed away their ashes were stored in the building for many years and it is believed that Abigail still haunts the castle. Last semester a ghost hunter came to campus and took students on a hunt that ended up at the castle. This ghost hunter sensed a woman and a young boys presence. Mark told me he was quite skeptical at first because no children had ever been associated with the building, however upon doing more research it was found that Johnathan and Abigail had a young son that died at the age of 5. Other workers at the CDC swear that Abigail is still around because many times the elevator opens and moves between floors on its own.